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Meet Our Pack

Dr. Margaret E. Gruen

DVM, MVPH, PhD, DACVB, Fear Free Certified

Principal Investigator, Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine

2021-22 Goodnight Early Career Innovator

Dr. Margaret E. Gruen holding a Siamese cat the veterinary office.

Dr. Gruen completed her veterinary degree at the University of Illinois. She came to North Carolina State University for an internship followed by a residency in veterinary behavior. She completed a Masters in Veterinary Public Health and became a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. After a few years on the faculty at NC State, she decided to pursue a PhD with a focus on understanding the behaviors associated with pain in cats with naturally-occurring arthritis. She then spent two years at Duke University, where she co-directed the Canine Cognition Center, and now has returned to North Carolina State University as an Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine.

  • Spontaneous Animal Disease Models
  • Human-Animal Interaction; Pain Management; Cognition and Ageing


  • Comparative Pain Research and Education Center (CPREC)
  • International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP)
  • International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)


  • Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB)
  • Fear Free Certification

Our Pack

Ilex Starenchak, LAT, M. Bio

Laboratory Manager & Research Assistant

Ilex received both their Bachelor of Science in Zoology with minors in Cognitive Science and Psychology and their Master of Biology with a focus on Science Communication from NC State University. They have spent their career working in both veterinary medicine and research, with a focus on captive wildlife, animal behavior, and animal welfare. They have extensive experience working with animals of all kinds, with their previous projects investigating captive avian welfare, comparative cognition, and animal communication. In their spare time, they enjoy hiking, birdwatching, spending quality time with their flock, and making music.

Beth Case, MSc

Research Assistant
A black lab lounging on a picnic table.

Beth received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Davis and Elkins College and her Master of Science in Zoology from NC State University. She has extensive experience managing clinical studies in cancer treatment, pain management and behavior. In her free time, she enjoys painting, traveling and hiking with her dog.

Kara Moore, MSc

Research Assistant
Kara Moore smiling at the camera.

Kara received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bates College and her Master of Science in Marine Sciences from UC-Santa Cruz. She is excited to begin working on our puppy cognition study in partnership with Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, which aligns with her past research experience in animal behavior. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and boating.

Rachel Caddiell, PhD

Research Associate
Rachel Caddiell smiling at the camera.

Rachel has recently completed her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Gruen and Dr. Kenneth Royal at North Carolina State University in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Rachel investigated whether there are breed differences in dog sensitivity thresholds, as well as the perception and education related to pain in veterinary medicine. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Rachel completed her BSc in Psychology with a Minor in Human-Animal Interactions at The Ohio State University where she contributed to a variety of welfare focused projects across species including dairy cattle, broilers, sheep and swine. From there, she earned her Master of Science in Animal Science from Texas A&M University. Her thesis project examined the impact of environmental enrichment on feedlot cattle behavior, productivity and physiology. In addition to her commitments at the University, Rachel serves as a third-party auditor for Certified Humane, a national non-profit organization created to improve the lives of farm animals by conducting inspections on-farm, and evaluates laying hen operations.

Our Pack Alumni

The Thinking Pets Program

Hope Woods, BA

  • Laboratory Manager & Research Assistant, 2019-2022

Dr. Michael Khan

  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, 2020-2022

Dr. Rachael Cunningham

  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, 2020-2021

Summer Veterinary Scholars

Gabriella Zayas Santiago, 2021Katie Kurtz, 2020Jackie Blake, 2019
Megan Carson, 2019Kylie Grady, 2019Irina Perdew, 2019